The Schwartz family placed 1,500 flags on a land they own off Sudbury Road in memoriam of the October 7 attack on Israel, which represented the deadliest single day for Jews since the Holocaust. Photo by Celeste Katz Marston

A field of flags in Concord for Israel’s fallen 

By Celeste Katz Marston
November 19, 2023

Concord has no shortage of flags.  

As a town that treasures its starring role in America’s history, the U.S. flag snaps from the top of the tall pole in Monument Square and marks the resting places of veterans of many wars. Flags honor the nation’s armed forces in Concord Center. They adorn public buildings and private homes. 

In recent weeks, a new and different field of flags has sprouted in town — not red, but crisply white and blue: The Schwartz family has placed 1,500 Israeli flags on land they own across Sudbury Road from the Concord Free Public Library. 

Not far from where the Schwartzes display 1,500 Israeli flags, a pole carries a poster featuring an Israeli family kidnapped by Hamas. Other hostage posters put up around Concord have been torn down. Photo by Celeste Katz Marston

Susan Schwartz says she put up the flags in memoriam of the Israelis who “were tortured and massacred” in the Hamas attacks of October 7, widely recognized as the deadliest day for Jewish people since the Holocaust. 

After the devastating attacks, “The silence was frightening to me,” says Schwartz, who is passionately dedicated to pro-Israel causes — and concerned about increasing reports of anti-Jewish vitriol.  

“A lot of people don’t know what their Jewish friends are going through.” 

Beyond communicating her grief, Schwartz said she wanted to fill “a vacuum” in and around Concord, “where we have seen very few signs and expressions of support for and solidarity with Israel.” She hopes the sight of the flags may “inspire others to have the courage to stand up for Israel and push back at the rising antisemitism.” 

It took Schwartz and her daughter six hours to place the 1,500 flags. They stand witness even as elsewhere in town — and across the country — posters bearing images of Israelis held hostage by Hamas and calling for their return are ripped down. Schwartz says she’s already replaced a “We Stand With Israel” sign she’d planted near the flags because it was vandalized. 

The family has also draped the front of their home with a much larger banner bearing the Star of David. 

Susan and Kurt Schwartz display flags on their home as a sign of their strong support for Israel. Photo by Celeste Katz Marston

While the Israeli government and others have urged people not to display outward signs of their Jewish identity out of concern for personal safety, “I’m not going to go hide,” Schwartz says.  

“I’m afraid of what’s happening — but I’m not going to hide.” 

Schwartz says her family has received a few notes and other expressions of support for the flag display. Among them: a card from state Rep. Simon Cataldo (D-Concord) and his wife, Chessie, that included the line “Am Israel Chai,” a Hebrew phrase translated as “The People of Israel Live.” 

“It is a very isolating time to be Jewish or have a connection to Israel, and it was incredibly meaningful to our family to see the Schwartzes’ memorial in the center of town,” Cataldo said in an email. “We wanted the Schwartz family to know that they have our support and our gratitude.” 

Several neighbors declined to discuss their feelings about the forest of flags – at least on the record. 

One who did speak, Gaby Cabrera, said she feels “for the people that died [in Israel, but] it is awful that it is not seen both ways, too.” 

Given the destruction engulfing Palestine with the Israeli military’s response to October 7, “What about the people in Gaza?” Cabrera asked. “Being against what the state of Israel is doing is not being against the Jewish people — and not supporting terrorists, either.”  

The Schwartz family placed 1,500 flags on land they own off Sudbury Road in memoriam of the October 7 attack on Israel, which represented the deadliest single day for Jews since the Holocaust. Photo by Celeste Katz Marston

Schwartz says she knows “there are civilians in Gaza that are victims of this war, and that truly is a tragedy,” and that she believes they deserve a “better government” than Hamas — one “that strives to makes its citizens’ lives better rather than committing genocide of all Jews.”  

While she said her flags may have to come down as winter weather descends on Concord, she’d ideally keep them flying until Israel defeats Hamas. 

“In my mind, there is no gray… This is a morally clear situation,” Schwartz says. “There is a right and a wrong here.”